How to Right-Click on a Mac

Just because there's no right button doesn't mean there's no right-click

Hand on apple computer mouse
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Are you looking at the mouse that came with your Mac and wondering how to right-click? While the Magic Mouse that comes with your Mac may not have many buttons, it has a touch-sensitive surface letting you define how to create primary and secondary (right-click) clicks, as well as gesture commands. The same goes for the trackpads found on MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs.

How to Right-Click on a Mac Using a Keyboard Modifier

The simplest way to produce a right-click is with a keyboard modifier; use this method to change a primary click on a mouse or trackpad into a secondary or right-click. This trick will work with any pointing device including mice and trackpads.

  1. Position the cursor over the item you wish to right-click on, then press and hold the Control key while you click the keyboard or the trackpad on your MacBook.

  2. The context-sensitive menu will appear. Once the menu is drawn, release the Control key and select the menu item you would like to use.

    The Control-click function works on trackpads as well as Magic Mice.

How to Set Up a Secondary (Right) Click on a Mouse

Basic mouse preferences screenshot

Using the Control key is all well and good, but you can still set up the mouse to feature a right-click function; you just need to define it.

  1. Launch System Preferences by selecting the System Preferences icon in the Dock, or by selecting System Preferences... from the Apple menu.

  2. Select the Mouse preference pane.

  3. The Mouse preference pane will have a different interface depending on the type of mouse being used.

    • If you're using an Apple Magic Mouse, select the Point & Click tab, then place a checkmark in the item labeled Secondary click. Just below the Secondary click text is a down arrow. Select the down arrow and choose which side of the Magic Mouse will be used for the Secondary click. The remaining button will be defined as the secondary button used to access the context-sensitive menus.
    • Third-party mice often come with their own set of mouse drivers that supersede the Mac's built-in mouse drivers. You don’t have to use the third party drivers, though they sometimes have additional capabilities. If you decide to use the third party drivers be sure and follow the instructions included for installing and configuring the mouse.
    Magic Mouse preferences in macOS High Sierra

How to Set Up a Secondary (Right) Click on a Trackpad

You can setup a secondary click on the Mac Trackpad as well. Here's how

  1. Launch System Preferences and select the Trackpad preference pane.

  2. Select the Point & Click tab in the Trackpad window, then place a checkmark in the item labeled Secondary click.

    Trackpad Preference Pane macOS High Sierra
  3. Below the Secondary click text is a down arrow. Select the down arrow and choose one of the options:

    • Click with two fingers
    • Click in bottom right corner
    • Click in bottom left corner

How to Use the Secondary or Right-Click

Now that you have the secondary click function defined, you can bring up the context-sensitive menu by placing the cursor over an item, such as a folder in Finder. "Right-click" by pressing down on the side of the mouse you defined as the secondary click. As soon as the menu appears, release the mouse or button or mouse side. You can then select a menu item by clicking the primary side or button of the mouse.

If you're using a Magic Mouse it works the same way, though there is no actual button visible. Just press the side of the Magic Mouse you defined as the secondary side. For best results, press near the top corner of the side you picked.

The trackpad works similarly to the mouse, though it also supports using a two-finger tap as the right-click function. To use the two-finger tap, use two fingers to click down on the trackpad and keep the fingers on the trackpad till the context-sensitive menu appears.